South Korea has issued a warning to North Korea, cautioning against their planned spy satellite launch. Seoul has threatened to suspend an inter-Korean peace deal as retaliation and resume frontline aerial surveillance. Earlier this year, North Korea had failed in two attempts to put a military spy satellite into orbit and had not followed through with a promised third attempt in October. However, South Korean officials believe that the delay in the launch was due to North Korea receiving technological assistance from Russia and that a launch could happen within days.
Defence Minister Shin Wonsik stated in an interview that the launch was expected later this month. South Korean and US authorities are closely monitoring North Korea’s movements. Senior military officer Kang Hopil urged North Korea to cancel the launch attempt, warning that necessary measures would be taken to protect the lives and safety of the people if North Korea proceeds.
The United Nations Security Council has banned any satellite launches by North Korea, as they view them as disguised tests of their missile technology. Kang mentioned that while North Korea needs a spy satellite to enhance its monitoring capabilities of South Korea, the launch is also aimed at strengthening its long-range missile program. In response, South Korea could potentially suspend the 2018 inter-Korean military agreements, which require both Koreas to halt aerial surveillance activities and live-firing drills along their tense border.
The military agreement, reached during a period of rapprochement between South Korea’s then liberal President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, established buffer zones and no-fly zones along land and sea boundaries to prevent accidental clashes. South Korea has also accused North Korea of receiving Russian technologies to enhance their nuclear and military capabilities in exchange for supplying conventional arms to support Russia’s war in Ukraine. Both Moscow and Pyongyang have denied any arms transfer deal, but both nations have been actively pushing for expanded bilateral cooperation amid prolonged security tensions with the United States.